For centuries Iceland was a part of the Danish monarchy without having a clearly defined or formally accepted special status. However, being in a distance of more than 1,000 nautical miles from Denmark and being inhabited by a population with a distinct and almost perfectly homogenous ethnicity, it was inevitable that in practice the country was considered to be a distinct part of the realm. Iceland had an educated upper class that occupied most official posts in the country, both the secular and religious ones. Until the 1830s the Icelanders seemed to be perfectly content with their country's status within the realm. By that time Icelandic intellectuals in Copenhagen began to adopt political nationalism which gradually spread to the population. Iceland set the course for political autonomy, although it was populated by mere 50-60,000 inhabitants, most of them poor peasants and fishermen. A century later, in 1944, Iceland became a republic, free from any political ties with Denmark.